Dear School Teachers and Staff,
My name is Mary Themom. I am the parent of 11th grade student, Bear. Bear is served by the district as a student with an Emotional Disturbance. It is my hope that Bear will have a more successful school year this year. To that end, I would like to share some information with you to help you understand Bear’s behavior, anxiety and issues, so you can better support him and provide a safe, appropriate learning environment.
Bear had a very traumatic childhood including abuse and years in foster care and psychiatric treatment before he was finally adopted as a teen (he is not always truthful about his past – feel free to confirm or deny stories with me). He can be very charming and helpful, especially to those he considers weaker than he is. He loves history and currently wants to be an underwater welder when he leaves home next year (we are working on getting him to finish high school with us).
His current diagnoses:
• RAD – a severe attachment disorder caused by his traumatic childhood that affects cognition, including cause and effect, memory, impulse control, and of course relationships. Bear triangulates and manipulates (especially with “poor little me” stories) to get special privileges or what he needs to feel safe, while at the same time is terrified because he can’t trust anyone to control him (which he needs to feel safe). Bear lives in a very black and white world. Women are usually on pedestals and patronized, or totally reviled. He doesn’t get that not doing something (like schoolwork) because he doesn’t like the person he’s working with (including teachers or the kid sitting next to him) is only hurting himself.
TIP: Bear responds best when people enforce high expectations, but obviously care.
• Bipolar – Bear is medicated for this, but despite his medications he still has major issues with irritability, “giving up,” withdrawal, sleeplessness, and distorted thinking.
• Unmedicated ADD – unfortunately we have found no medications that work with Bear’s body chemistry. TIP: Keeping him active is the best way to help him focus and stay on task.
• Cerebral dysrhythmia – brain injuries that affect his long term retrieval, memory, cognitive and processing skills - worsened by the many gaps in his education due to constant moving and trauma. As stated in his FIE, he has great difficulty adapting and working quickly and efficiently when under pressure (which is always!). He also will need projects broken down into small steps. TIP: Bear has good communication skills, but his vocabulary and ability to understand things is often much less than he is willing to let on. Be aware that he is very good at hiding this.
• C-PTSD - Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – causes him to feel under constant emotional stress because he never feels safe, and causes him to overreact to things you or I might consider minor. The majority of Bear’s issues and behaviors are caused by this constant fear, but he cannot admit that.
It is difficult to learn math and spelling when you feel you are in the middle of a war zone!
If you have any questions or concerns regarding any of these diagnoses or his others, please feel free to e-mail me at ________@_________.com or call me at (###) ###-####.
WARNING: Bear’s history, treatment and diagnoses are incredibly complex, and staff and peers who are not aware of his issues giving him advice and support based on “normal” kids reactions and behaviors, often derail and set back his achievements and progress by allowing him to manipulate to gain privileges or sympathy, or avoid dealing with his issues in therapy. In addition to structure, support, and therapeutic parenting from us, Bear has a therapist, psychiatrist, and team of trained professionals, including GOAL’s staff.
Bear requires close supervision due to his unpredictable poor choices and poor impulse control that have led to some serious and life-threatening consequences.
Bear NEEDS a lot of structure and support to feel safe. He NEEDS control of his environment at all times, and can go to extreme measures to get that control. This is not always logical. For example, if Bear is told he can go on a field trip if he has no attendance issues and behaves pleasantly with everyone for a week, but he doesn’t absolutely know for sure he can do that, then he might deliberately misbehave so he has 100% control over the outcome. He might also sabotage himself because the trip actually scares him (he doesn’t feel safe in unfamiliar, uncontrollable environments). If a connection is made at all, he will most likely say he didn’t want to go on the “stupid” field trip in the first place (sour grapes). I have my suspicions as to why he is back at GOALS which is very structured and predictable with staff who watch out for him and keep him safe.
Bear does not learn by watching others (modeling) and has great difficulty learning from his mistakes. Due to his severe trust issues, he cannot ask for or accept help. Bear is very skilled at “flying under the radar.”
TIP: Letting little things pass; giving multiple chances; allowing consequences to wait or build up; believing or appearing to believe his lies, triangulation attempts and manipulations … all push Bear’s already limited ability to understand the connection between his actions and the consequences and causes him to disconnect and blame others – which further intensifies his trust issues and is teaching him that he can get away with dangerous behaviors.
Bear NEEDS consequences and to be held accountable for even small infractions, or he has shown repeatedly that he will continue to escalate until he gets what he needs.
Please always notify Bear’s team regarding suspected or actual behaviors (ex. sleeping in class, inability to focus, lying, irritability, venting to others, drug and tobacco use, theft of small electronics, selling drugs and food, food issues, carrying weapons, psychosomatic pain, depression and withdrawal) and his ability to get out of classes (tardies, skipping, long breaks, walking out). We need your help and input as we on various strategies to prevent this dangerous behavior, help Bear make better choices, and establish additional behavior interventions. In addition to notifying Focus staff, please e-mail his case manager Mr. W (______@_______.com) and Mr. C with special school (_________@_________.com).
Again, please contact me for any and all concerns regarding Bear. I need to be kept abreast of all situations, and I will do the same for you. I am available 95% of the day. I do work, but have flexibility on my job and can be reached by phone at almost any time. I will return your call as soon as possible if I am in a meeting, or you can reach my husband, Hubby, at (###) ###-####.
Yours in Partnership, Mary Themom (###) ###-####. _________@__________.com